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Russia unplugged

Russia cloud

Through my travels over the last 8 months or so I have picked up some valuable insights on the cloud technology and have also been surprised by my findings. On a recent visit to Moscow I learned that in Russia the cloud looks set to be in conflict with new legislation that could effectively divide the Internet.

By 1 January 2015 data operators will be required to store personal data of Russian citizens on servers inside the territory of the Russian Federation. The legislation which was signed by President Putin on 9 July and its roll-out was brought forward following a vote in September.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter, for example, who store data on servers outside of the country will be in breach of the new rules. AWS, Google, Microsoft and many others that have no data centre presence. Cloud and web services that store personal data beyond Russian borders face being blocked from the Internet.

Alexander Yushchenko, a member of the Committee on Information Policy responsible for the legislation, assured the public that many services would be able continue. He believes that companies like Facebook and Twitter will be able to rent Russian servers, complying with the new rules.

Last week Dmitry Marinichev, appointed in July by the government as Russia’s first Internet ombudsman, suggested that it was going to be difficult for data operators to comply. “At the moment it cannot technically be implemented,” said Marinichev. “Social networks, Internet stores, cloud services and ticket and hotel booking services would be at risk.”

Nevertheless the deadline and ability to comply misses one of the more crucial aspects of the new laws. As part of the legislation Russia wants to be able to implement a kill-switch. Increasing security this kill-switch would allow the government to sever Russia from the global Internet during times of war or large-scale civil protests.

This is a big issue that no one is really talking about – at least not on my travels or in cloud forums. What does all this mean really? My belief is that we will see a frenzy to set-up local data servers. Facebook, Twitter, Google and all the big providers will need to host these data servers in Russia, and quickly.

Is this a big step back to the dark days? Maybe. To quote Winston Churchill, “an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent.” This one might only be digitally drawn but the impact is huge. One thing is for sure – Russia will not be the only country considering these measures. The rise of the country clouds will soon be emerging and I think countries will be more insular in their approach due to trust and security.